By Sean Boelman
After having a hybrid edition in 2020, one of the first film festivals to attempt an in-person element in the face of the pandemic, the Florida Film Festival is back for its thirtieth anniversary, and the program is filled to the brim with unique and exciting films. We at disappointment media have gotten the chance to see some of them in advance, and here are a few of our favorites.
Dash Shaw’s Cryptozoo is one of the weirder films in the Narrative Feature competition, but this trippy adult animated adventure is also one of the most ambitious and impressive films in the lineup. Like an Indiana Jones movie made by Wes Anderson on acid, this surreal fable with a voice cast including Lake Bell and Michael Cera isn’t quite like anything else you’ll see at the festival. Floridians won’t want to give up this early opportunity to see one of the very best films of the year so far, and on the big screen at that.
My Wonderful Wanda
The International Showcase section at the Florida Film Festival is always a highlight, and this year is no exception. Bettina Oberli’s Swiss melodrama My Wonderful Wanda may lean into the histrionic elements of its family drama, but it’s also far more intelligent than most films in the genre. Following a caregiver who forms a close and complicated relationship with the man for whom she works, the first third is arguably the best part of the film, exploring the dynamics between the upper and lower class, but the more character-driven final act is also compelling and surprisingly emotional.
Interestingly enough, two of the four films in the International Showcase sidebar are about an illegitimate pregnancy. Although the Canadian coming-of-age drama Our Own is the lesser film, it still has some very resonant elements. Ultimately, it needed to either be more subtle or less overt, straddling a weird line of ambiguity that isn’t quite satisfying. There are a lot of really good things here — Jeanne Leblanc shows a lot of talent in the director’s chair and Emilie Bierre gives an exceptional leading performance — but there are just a few too many inconsistencies for this to be a home run.
Riders of Justice
Mads Mikkelsen is quickly becoming an international superstar, and Riders of Justice provides ample opportunity for him to kick ass in a revenge thriller. And if it isn’t enough to watch Mikkelsen playing an ex-military father avenging the death of his wife by shooting up a biker gang, this is also a surprisingly interesting discussion of psychological trauma. Apart from a few moments of dark humor that don’t quite land, instead feeling somewhat insensitive, this is an entertaining watch from start to finish, with more than a few belly laughs and plenty of great action sequences.
Summer of 85
Filmmaker François Ozon has gotten quite the following for his LGBTQ-centric films, and his newest, Summer of 85, is a lovely summertime gay romance. With serious shades of Call Me By Your Name, this film overcomes its seeming lack of originality with Ozon’s wonderful sense of style and an overall air of fun that radiates throughout the film. It’s one of the more mainstream films in this year’s lineup, and it has what is probably the best soundtrack of any film playing at the festival, so festival-goers will definitely want to check this out.
The Florida Film Festival runs online and in-person in Orlando, Florida from April 9-22, 2021.
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The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.